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NFL scores and more, Week 9: What happened Sunday

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Oakland leads a really fun AFC West race. That and everything else from Sunday’s NFL action.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Which AFC West team is the best team in the division? If you subscribe to the theory of “you are what your record says you are” — and, really, what better way is there to assess this? — then the Raiders rule at 7-2. They have as many wins as the Patriots, and also have the second seed in the AFC playoff standings.

But they also lost to the Chiefs back in Week 6. Kansas City is 6-2 and in second place in the division standings.

The Chiefs beat the Jaguars this week, barely. The Raiders put up a very convincing win against the Broncos, who happen to be in third place in the division, also with six wins.

You really can’t rule out the Chargers either. They’re the only team in the AFC West without a winning record, but that figures to change soon. San Diego started the season 1-3, but has a nice, symmetrical 3-1 since Week 6.

So who’s the best team in the AFC West? Right now, it’s the Raiders. That’s subject to change from week to week until we get to January, where we can probably expect three teams from this division to still be playing.

My advice is to stop worry about which team in the AFC West is the best. You should focus on watching their games instead, because despite what the TV ratings might suggest, they are very fun.

The Cowboys are Dak’s team now

The Cowboys are unofficially, but kind of officially, Dak Prescott’s team now. He threw three touchdown passes in a trouncing of the Browns this week that put the Cowboys at 7-1, best in the NFC.

Prescott also broke one of Troy Aikman’s franchise records and became the first rookie QB in NFL history with a rating of 100 or better in six of his first eight games. Great. His biggest accomplishment though was calming Dez Bryant down.

Ezekiel Elliott had another big game too, scoring two touchdowns of his own.

The Vikings’ boat is sinking fast

We spent the first two months of the season trying to decide whether or not the Falcons were for real (they are) follow last season’s collapse after a 5-0 start. We hardly noticed the team that collapsed after a 5-0 start to this season, the Minnesota Vikings.

I wish I could go back and find, maybe hide, every post I ever wrote declaring just how good the Vikings were. But I don’t think that sentiment was necessarily wrong. The Vikings were very good to start the season, getting by with the time-honored combination of a shutdown defense and don’t-screw-it-up offense.

Then the offense started screwing it up, badly. We still aren’t entirely sure why Norv Turner quit, other than his belief that he didn’t have what it takes to make the unit work. How could he with that offensive line?

The worst part about their current three-game skid is that st’s not just the offense blowing it for the Vikings now. Kicker Blair Walsh missed an extra point and got a field goal blocked that further scuttled their chances. The worst part was the defense letting Detroit march down the field and tie the game at the end of regulation and score a game-winning touchdown on the first possession of overtime.

The Vikings seemed untouchable in the division a month ago. Now, the Lions have are right there behind them, with five wins of their own, and with the Packers struggling, the NFC North is now up for grabs.

Case Keenum isn’t the Rams’ problem

The Rams lost again, thanks in part to another underwhelming performance by quarterback Case Keenum. Fans booed in what was only the team’s third game in Los Angeles this year.

They also chanted “we want Goff,” pleading for the team to put in Jared Goff, the guy they traded away a bundle of draft picks to get this year. (They also chanted for Tebow; that’s how desperate things are).

Don’t get your hopes up. Jeff Fisher refused to put the blame on Keenum.

Fisher added that the team would “circle the wagons” and take a closer look, but he added that he was happy with Keenum’s play.

This is Jeff Fisher, so his word doesn’t mean anything, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. But because this is Jeff Fisher, we know he has a certain comfort level elevating career backups.

He’s also kind of right. It wouldn’t matter who was playing quarterback, the offense is terrible. They ran Todd Gurley a grand total of 12 times, despite the fact that he averaged 4 yards per attempt. They put the offense on Case Keenum’s shoulders and they never trailed by more than 10 points.

So yeah, Case Keenum isn’t the Rams’ biggest problem. Jeff Fisher is.

The sneaky pick for MVP

Tom Brady looks like the easy choice to MVP, your personal preferences aside and no matter what Reggie Wayne says. Derek Carr continued to make his case this week. So did Matt Ryan.

What about Matthew Stafford?

The Lions quarterback put together a fifth game-winning drive of the season to beat the Vikings this week. That’s a game-winning drive in all five Detroit wins this season. He’s got 2,373 passing yards (6th most), 18 touchdowns (3rd most), five interceptions and a 101.6 passer rating.

None of those stats lead the league. They’re not even the most impressive collection of stats for a quarterback this year. It’s probably not enough to actually convince voters to make him the MVP.

However, he’s doing all of this without Calvin Johnson. More importantly, he’s doing this in spite of the player he used to be.

Given the state of the NFC North, it’s not at all out of the question for the Lions to win the division. They’ll need Stafford to keep playing like this to do it. If he does, then he just might get a few votes after all .

Those terrible kickers

Kickers missed the usual assortment of field goals and extra points on Sunday. This week, kickers embarrassed themselves with onside kicks.

Onside kicks have a low success rate anyway. It’s just too hard for the kicking team to actually come up with the ball, and opponents usually know what’s coming.

That doesn’t stop teams from trying, but in order to do that, they need a minimal effort from their kickers. The Steelers and Rams did not get that on Sunday.

Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell got too fancy with a failed Rabona. Greg Zurlein of the Rams launched it 45 yards.

Highlights

Jamie Collins sported Pokemon hair in his Browns debut.

The Browns-Cowboys game started off with a helmet-throwing fight that got two players ejected.

The Jaguars defended themselves against an interception.

The Vikings have a new OC and now Sam Bradford is catching his own passes.

Calvin Pryor was flagged for taunting for brushing his jersey. COME ON, NFL.

Eli Manning's new audible is "Brown PS" but it sounds NSFW.

Chris Ivory wrecked a dude.

Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled for a first down, then busted out a rugby-like lateral. And it worked!

Odell Beckham Jr. is scoring touchdowns faster than anyone in 50 years.

No, Cole Beasley wasn't mocking LeBron with his TD celebration.

An Eagles field goal attempt didn't stand a chance against Jason Pierre-Paul.

Even with Ben Roethlisberger back, the Steelers looked like poop on offense in the first half against the Ravens.

Joe Flacco's slide was so bad he broke his knee brace.

300-pound DL Jordan Phillips picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick, and then majestically hurdled a dude.

Ezekiel Elliott capped off his gazillionth touchdown of the season with a "Chicken Noodle Soup" dance.

Travis Kelce was ejected for throwing a towel at a ref.

Golden Tate went butt-first to beat the Vikings in OT.

Whoops, the Steelers forgot about a Ravens player and got their punt blocked and returned for a TD.

Double whoops, the Steelers attempted the worst onside kick you've ever seen. Even worse than the one the Rams tried where they forgot the, y'know, onside kick part.

Damn Johnny Hekker, that was a nice punt.

Steve Smith was back after missing a few games, and he's ready to fight people again.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix emerged as Andrew Luck's favorite target. Reminder: Clinton-Dix plays cornerback for the Packers.

Robert Turbin celebrated a tackle he made after a Luck interception. You know what? Good for him.

Aaron Rodgers zipped a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that appeared to go through a Colts defender. AND it was a free play.

Rams fans were chanting for Jared Goff. And Tim Tebow. Basically, anyone who isn't Case Keenum.

Chip Kelly had his defenders hold on purpose for a play before the half. It was actually a smart move.

This brutal hit on Cam Newton was totally legal.

Squirrel on the field at Packers-Colts! We repeat: squirrel on the field!

The 49ers tried to Michael Thomas. He still grabbed a touchdown from Drew Brees that bounced off a defender.

Dropping a perfect (!) throw from Case Keenum is more 7-9 BS from the Rams.

Sorry quarterbacks: Von Miller found a way to be even more terrifying.

The Cowboys celebrated win No. 7 by doing the Mannequin Challenge -- on a plane!

Raiders punter Marquette King pinned the Broncos and then rode an imaginary ponyoff the field. He's the best.

Major injuries

Jeremy Maclin, who has been dealing with a groin injury, left early against the Jaguars. He was ruled out for the rest of the game.

Jets cornerback Marcus Williams did not return after leaving with an ankle injury.

The Steelers lost another WR when Darrius Heyward-Bey went down in obvious pain with a right foot injury. He was carted off the field.

Victor Cruz was ruled out after leaving to get X-rays on his ankle. Giants OL Justin Pugh also did not return after exiting with a knee injury.

Browns DL Carl Nassib did not return against the Cowboys due to an eye injury.

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey left with a thumb injury, returned, and then left again.

Ryan Fitzpatrick left in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins with a knee injury. Bryce Petty replaced him, taking the first snaps of his NFL career, but Fitzpatrick later returned to the game. He'll get an MRI on Monday.

Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe was carted off with an elbow injury. He was later declared out for the remainder of the game.

Scoreboard

Atlanta Falcons 43, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28

Baltimore Ravens 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 14

Dallas Cowboys 35, Cleveland Browns 10

Kansas City Chiefs 19, Jacksonville Jaguars 14

Miami Dolphins 27, New York Jets 23

Detroit Lions 22, Minnesota Vikings 16

New York Giants 28, Philadelphia Eagles 23

Carolina Panthers 13, Los Angeles Rams 10

New Orleans Saints 41, San Francisco 49ers 23

Indianapolis Colts 31, Green Bay Packers 26

San Diego Chargers 43, Tennessee Titans 35

Oakland Raiders 30, Denver Broncos 20